Agnes Erdös grew up in privilege and prosperity as a child in Hungary. She and her parents were practicing Roman Catholics, but they were ethnic Jews, and after the Nazis invaded her country, Agnes and her parents were sent to the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Miraculously, both Agnes and Gustav survived. And after the war, they found each other.
Told in their own words, Surviving Hitler is the story of two indomitable spirits who built on their life-altering experiences to overcome the past, help each other heal, and embrace a common faith in God that led them to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
By Cheryl, Submitted on 2015-02-25
What an amazing story! I was overcome with emotion as I read about the lives of these two people. I was inspired by the attitudes that they had as they faced such atrocities in their lives. I was particularly touched by the strength that Agnes found in the blessing that her father gave her. She and Gustav were sensitive to the Lord's spirit and heeded the promptings that they received. They are wonderful examples of the importance of holding fast to our faith in God.
By Erin, Submitted on 2015-02-25
Every once in a while you get the chance to read a book that moves you to the core, a book that illuminates truth, displays life's best virtues amidst its worth flaws, and feeds your soul to the point of growth. Surviving Hitler is that book.
Surviving Hitler is the true story of Agnes and Gustav, both victims of a terrible war on humanity. One a Jew, and the other an SS Soldier, this book delivers a beautiful mixture of God's hand at work, incredible mortal courage, unthinkable human sacrifice and uplifting spiritual triumph, even amidst the ugliest reality of pride, greed, power, and death. Through the hand of the Lord, and unlikely situations, both survive the war, meet, marry and join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
During her stay in one of many concentration camps Agnes records,
"I was overwhelmed with gratitude that such greatness and nobility survived in the most degraded situation. I felt that the eternal spirit, which exist is in all people, could be accessible despite the circumstances. Maybe there was still hope for the world, if some could remain untouched and pure in the midst of all the insanity. I learned that the hope that the world will be a place where all people will love their neighbors and themselves is alive as long as there is one person alive practicing it on the earth."
Another of my favorite accounts is a story that Agnes shares towards the end of the war.
"From inside the fence, lots of men still begged for water, and we continued to help them as best we could. Once while running from the hole in the fence back to the truck, I stepped on an arm by a ditch. At first I thought I had stepped on a dead man but then heard moaning. I looked down and saw the man looking at me, stirring something in side me to the marrow. I fell down to my knees, lifted his head, and poured a few drops of water into his mouth. He mumbled in Hungarian, "May Abraham, our Father, bless you." I saw that he was close to death and shouted in his ear that we were liberated, to which he nodded and said, "Thank God!" He looked at me and took one last breath. My last favor to him was to close his eyes so he wouldn't have to stare out into nothing like so many other corpses did. In wet clothes, I continued to alternately walk and run between the tanker and the hole in the fence. Suddenly I thought I heard a voice saying, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Mathew 25:40). I looked around to see who had quoted the Bible but saw no one."
I think the thing that I loved most about this book was the way that while reading it you could actually see the Lord guiding their lives, protecting them from harms way, and strengthening them through their journey. My heart is forever changed thanks to these two brave humans. Two individuals that lit up all of their surroundings, on their very darkest journey, with their faith and humanity. The aftermath of the war was not easy for Agnes and Gustav, and after fighting for so many years to Survive Hitler it definitely took its toll on these two. But the miracle is in the choice that they both deliberately decided not to harbor hate, but to spread love.
To Agnes and Gustav: It is a privilege to know your story. If I could I would hug you both so tight and tell you thank you for blessing my life through sharing yours.
By John, Submitted on 2015-02-25
Once I started reading I had a hard time putting it down. This is one of books that makes you say "I'll never complain again!" The account of Agnes' family entering the concentration camp is especially powerful. I'm grateful that the Palm family are willing to share their story.
By Michelle, Submitted on 2015-02-25
Once again, Deseret Book does not disappoint!! I don't think there have ever been any books from Deseret that I haven't liked and this is no exception! I have loved World War II history since I was in high school. WWII has intrigued me more than any other war in history and I have loved learning about it, especially through stories of those who lived through it. Therefore, I jumped on the chance to review this book. It was amazing to read how Agnes' family joined the Catholic church when she was young just to hide the fact that they were really Jewish. I did a report on Auschwitz in high school, so it was very interesting reading about Agnes' experience there. It was also quite interesting to read about Gustav being an SS soldier, especially when it was not something he really wanted to do. It was eye-opening reading about the prison for the SS soldiers after the war ended and what Gustav went through there. Their story of surviving the war is amazing, and how they happened to encounter each other after the war even more intriguing. I loved reading about their conversion to the LDS Church and how they developed a relationship with President Monson through the years. Their story is truly inspiring and motivating - I only wish the book was longer to be able to share even more of their lives! This book is a definite read for anyone who enjoys learning about history and stories that really happened. Theirs is an amazing legacy for their family and something that we can now all share.
By Rebecca, Submitted on 2015-02-25
This is really a time I wish I was good with words. I wish I could express in beautiful writing how much I loved this book, because it deserves that. Unfortunately I was born with the gift of "gab" and not the gift of "writing". I can only hope that my review will encourage another person to read this amazing story.
Stories about the holocaust are so very hard for me to read. In all honesty I try to avoid them. I like to read to escape reality, not live it through the words of a book. When I saw this book come up for review though, I had to jump on the wagon. I am always amazed when I read stories about the holocaust and how people came out "okay". That time in our history is so heart breaking, that is hard for me to believe that anything good came out of it. I am so very thankful that so many good things did come from such a horrible time in history.
This story is told in Agnes and Gustav's words through their son. They came from very different back grounds, and the entire time you will read about the same time, yet they are going through very different experiences. The small miracles that happen to each of them are evident and I love that they acknowledge that they are miracles.
I am an emotional person to begin with, so lets just say this book had me in tears on multiple occasions. Sobbing, deep, breath tears. Some were sad, and some were happy. None the less, this book brought out so many emotions while reading it.
I cannot imagine the horror that Agnes had to witness, and go through on a daily basis. When she talks about her trip to Auschwitz and the last time she sees her parents, my heart was so heavy. I cannot image the pain she went through as she watched her parents walk away, and be taken into the gas chambers. Through all of her hardships and terrors she had to live through she never lost faith. She may have questioned where God was at times, but deep down she knew he was always with her.
Gustav's point of view often made me angry. Not because he was a bad man, because he is not, but because of the horrible things he was forced to do as a soldier. I cannot image the turmoil he went through knowing that he was fighting a war in which he did not fully agree with. He served and did his duty, but knew that what they were doing was wrong. I understand why he kept his past a secret. I have to admit that while reading it at times, I didn't think too highly of him. I had to remind myself, that he really had no choice in the matter. I cannot image the heart ache he has had to go through knowing what role he played in such a horrific time in history. I grew to love Gustav and my heart aches that he even had to experience such things.
When Agnes and Gustav meet, I was absolutely blown away at the willingness and love that Agnes had for this complete stranger that she saw sitting alone. This woman has a heart bigger than life. She saw the good in people regardless of their background. She and Gustav are such an example of love, forgiveness, acceptance and overcoming the trials that life throws at you.
Reading this story really does put into perspective how easy my life really is! I really have no room to complain. We may experience hardships in our lives but how we handle them will decide what kind of person we will be.
Anges and Gustav's journeys were heart breaking, and horrible, but it also led to a beautiful life. It's hard to imagine that something so beautiful came from something so horrific. Now, they have a legacy of love that is larger than even they imagined. They have touched the lives of countless people. They are the true example of faith, unconditional love, and forgiveness.
Whether you are a religious person or not, this book is beautiful. The writing is beautiful. The glimpse into the lives of these two beautiful humans is amazing.
This book was inspiring, and wonderful. If you get a chance to pick it up, I do not think you will regret a minute of your time.
Source: I received this ARC copy from Deseret Book in return for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way for this review. These are my own PERSONAL thoughts on the book.
By Melanie, Submitted on 2015-02-25
I like to read books about the Holocaust and World War II, since there's so much we can learn from that period of time. I especially like the ones that are inspirational, and found the summary of this one to be intriguing. An SS soldier and a Jewish woman. This is the story of Gustav and Agnes from 1919 through the 1960's, with an epilogue by the author (their son) which tells us where they are now and some of the things he learned from them over the years.
Agnes was an only child whose father was the director of a big luxury hotel in Hungary, so she grew up in luxury. Gustav was born in Norway. His mother had seven children with her first husband and three, including Gustav, with her second. Money was more of a struggle for him but his mother worked hard to make sure they had what they needed.
It seems so easy to hate anyone that fought alongside the Germans during this time so it was a different experience to hope for the best for Gustav individually while feeling glad when things weren't working out well for his side. I felt bad for him as he was in a fight he didn't believe in and just trying to survive.
One of my favorite parts was when Agnes told the story of a female camp guard who looked depressed so she asked her what was wrong. The guard started crying and told Agnes her terrible story and said she had been contemplating suicide when Agnes came over to talk to her. I liked the words of Agnes: "I learned that there are good people everywhere and that you can talk to most. Our female guards were not fanatics or cruel people either. They were just people who had found themselves in unfortunate circumstances caused by this evil war. I wondered who exactly was responsible for all of this misery. Was it the selfish, the ambitious, and the sinful souls on each side, who usually get away?" (pp. 115-116)
What I particularly loved about this story is that it's told with faith and hope for a better life. Each of them almost lost their lives several times and both of them witnessed many miracles. I also liked that neither of them were bitter about their experiences afterward. After the war, they each focused on beginning a new life and that's when they found each other. My only complaint about this book is that I wish the parts after the war were a little bit longer.
This is also an emotional read and I had tears in my eyes and cried several times. It's a good reminder that there were human beings on both sides and the men fighting for Hitler didn't necessarily agree with him. They were, indeed, just people who found themselves in unfortunate circumstances. This book is inspirational and I highly recommend it to everyone!
By Shauna, Submitted on 2015-02-25
How blessed we are that people who experience horrific events are willing to share with us... That we might understand more fully...
Your heart will be touched~
Your mind will question~
Your life will be changed~
In April 1940, Germany invaded Norway...
"Norway was without a king or government...and the people believe anything they heard."
Not knowing what else to do Gustav Palm joined the National Socialist Party and ended up in the Norwegian battalion.
"After being forced to guard a Nazi prison camp, however, Gustav took his only option for escape: he volunteered for the Waffen-SS to fight at the front."
At this same time Agnes Erdös was living as a "privileged and prosperous child in Hungary."
She and her parents had joined the Catholic church, but in 1941 when Hitler's discrimination laws against Jews went into effect their heritage was found out and they were sentenced to the "death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau."
This is their story...all of the things that they experienced during the war.
Gustav as a soldier of war~
Agnes as a prisoner of war~
Each had terrible things happen to them.
Each had miracles that saved them.
Each were brought together after the war.
TWO PEOPLE "WHO OVERCAME THROUGH LOVE..."
WHO IN THE BEST WAY THEY COULD "SURVIVED HITLER."
AN AMAZING BOOK!
DO NOT MISS OUT ON THIS ONE!
A BOOK SO WORTH READING!
A STORY THAT NEEDS TO BE SHARED!
YOU WILL LOVE THE INCLUDED PHOTOS!
By Stephanie, Submitted on 2015-02-25
I have not read a holocaust book since reading The Diary of Ann Frank in high school. It is such a horrible time in history and the outcome for thousands of innocent people is dreadful and caused me sleepless nights. I was so horrified to discover what happens to dear Ann Frank that I have not been able to read another story like it since. I just couldn't bring myself to do it.
When I was given the opportunity to review this book I was struck immediately by the fact that this book will show case survivors of Hitler's regime. I gave it a chance and I'm so glad I did! This story focuses on 2 individuals, Gustav and Agnes.
Gustav lived in Norway when Hitlers army invaded. At the time, like so many others, he was "offered" an opportunity to join the Norwegian Battalion. He wasn't particularly interested but after much pressure they convinced him that he owed allegiance to the socialist party and that he could be a "police officer." Thinking "traffic police" Gustav knew that this opportunity would be better than farming so he took it. Poor Gustav! He was manipulated and found himself a guard at a Nazi prison camp. He was trapped. His heart broke for the "political prisoners" which he realized later were actually Jews and he remarks that as guards they were literally "prisoners guarding prisoners." It's eye-opening to realize that so many members of Hitlers army were unwilling and ashamed to do his bidding - but they really had no choice.
Agnes was a young lady living in Hungary when Hitler invaded. Her family, while of Jewish decent, had converted to Catholicism many years before. It didn't matter, those of Jewish faith or those of Jewish decent were forced into the ghetto anyway. Eventually, with her mother and father, she was loaded into a cramped boxcar and taken to Auschwitz. Through a series of life-saving events Agnes made it into barracks with other healthy women who would be given the opportunity to work. She never saw her parents again.
As you read this story you can see, amazingly, God's hand working through the tragedy as Agnes and Gustav eventually survive the war and find each other, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and happiness!
Written by their son O. Hakan Palm, and told as journal entries from the perspective of Agnes and Gustav, this book will take you to Hitler's Reich and back again. It is amazing and tasteful! I will be holding onto this book to use while we study World War II in our homeschool. It is well written and perfect for High School age students.
By Aimee, Submitted on 2015-02-25
What an amazing account of two people enduring and surviving one of the most heinous times in history. I am always drawn to books like this. They do more than tell a story- they remind me to be grateful, they educate me and they inspire me to be better.
Gustav and Agnes lived through two different sides of WWII. Both innocents in a tragic and awful time, forced into things that are unbelievable to some degree. It's hard to wrap my mind around the atrocities that they both lived through. So, so awful. So much heartache and loss. Their stories will touch your heart. They surely touched mine.
Most of the book is told from the alternating views of Gustav and Agnes. We follow each through life before, during and after the war. Obviously, most of the book is set during the war. The last chapter or so of the book does talk about their conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- Day Saints, but it isn't preachy or anything. It simply tells how they came to know of the church and what they did after joining.
I really liked the pictures and the historical notes throughout the book. Pictures always make stories like this more personal.
I feel like this book is such a treasure. What an amazing account of life- of sacrificing and enduring and living to tell about it. Perhaps what is most amazing to me is how these two individuals conducted themselves during and after these atrocities. They were never bitter or angry. They never held on to the unfair, brutal lot that was heaped upon them. Instead they conducted themselves with honor and integrity. They helped others when they could. They kept their wits about them and they continued on. What an amazing legacy to leave their family. I'm so grateful to the author for sharing this amazing account with me.
By Lisa, Submitted on 2015-02-25
It is amazing to me how people who are faced with horrible situations come out stronger and hold true to themselves and their values. This book takes a look at the lives of Agnes and Gustav Palm. She was of Jewish descent and sentenced to live in a concentration camp, he lived in Norway and found himself a German Soldier.
For years he kept it a secret that he had been a soldier for Germany. There was shame tagged to the title. There was not shame for his wife to admit that she lived in a concentration camp. She was looked on a survivor who lived through an impossible situation. Both of their stories are inspiring. Gustav had nothing to be ashamed of, he was a young man deceived.
I loved how World War II was told through both of their viewpoints. Their son has taken their experiences and given their experiences a chance to be told. Both Gustav and Agnes lived through things that I am grateful that I don't have to face. They were showed compassion and mercy from strangers and both came out stronger because of their sacrifices. Their will to live in spite of others is exampilary.
This is an amazing story. It is an account from two sides of a terrible time in history. This is a book that I will treasure the opportunity that I have had to read.